Bill Barhydt

CEO, Founder, ABRA


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Nuclear Energy vs Other Non-Fossil Fuel based energy sources

I believe that we need to invest in and deploy nuclear energy. We have a much better chance of innovating and surviving our way through a nuclear energy era than we do through the current fossil fuel era extended for a couple of hundred more years. What do you believe?

  • Mar 25 2011: To be clear, I agree with the original poster's premise. I have looked over this thread, and reviewed a few of the comments in depth, but not all. There are two points I think missing. First, who pays? Electricity is generated and sold as a business. Electricity is not a "government program", a "right of existence", a "community service", or a charity. The corporation selling electricity has to profit. (And the customers want the product at the lowest price). Thumbrule of business - Big factories make widgets cheaper per unit than small factories. That suggests big baseload will be cheaper than distributed production.

    Second, anyone reading this thread is doing so on an expensive computer of some kind. We are the rich. Who are we to be deciding what the rest of the world has to pay for their energy?

    My point? Cost matters, and you can not escape that. Right now, wind is more expensive to build and get return on investment than either coal or nuclear, and there are reliability issues. Solar is hugely more expensive.

    Continue the R&D. Push hard. Fund some projects in wind and solar. (Let T. Boone Pickens make a pile on his wind farm and show us how to do it). But keep the costs in view. Personally, I think for now, nuclear will be a needed.
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      Mar 26 2011: Dewey, one point for clarification. Electricity production is not always run by corporate entities. There are municipal, state, and even country run electric companies. Furthermore, even when managed by private corporations they are often heavily subsidized by governments in one form or another. For example, government money is spent to fund research or building power stations.
      • Apr 5 2011: Adam: OF COURSE power can be supplied by coops or other "not for profit" entities.......And the business model applies equally to them as the investor owned for profit corporations. With a couple of tweaks possibly. At the low end, I submit they are even more profit driven than the big guys. They are not as worried about their "corporate image"..........At the higher end, they may not be as worried about "big mistakes" as the corporate entities. They can simply raise rates or taxes to compensate. Their buffer is not falling stock prices but public backlash, which is generally less responsive.

        And, no I'm not saying that subsidization is bad - In fact if you read my original post I support it. IN AN INCUBATOR capacity. Not as public policy.........Public policy needs to weigh all factors balanced. Cost is one. Risk is one. Reliability is one. And so on. Have a happy.
    • Mar 26 2011: Hi Dewey,

      may I ask you, whether your conclusions and assumptions are based on any actual statistics?

      I know the stats and I've postet links to them in some of my earlier postings.
      Because I draw different conclusions from them, I would very much like to get to know the data upon which your argument is based.

      In case you don't have such, I would kindly ask you to question your own beliefs.

      Thank you!
    • Apr 3 2011: "Big factories make widgets cheaper per unit than small factories. That suggests big baseload will be cheaper than distributed production."

      > not true. This would only be true if the 'big' and 'small' suppliers were making the same technology.

      "Right now, wind is more expensive to build and get return on investment than either coal or nuclear, and there are reliability issues. Solar is hugely more expensive."

      > actually, this is also not true. Wind and solar are both (right now!) cheaper than nuclear energy, and are rapidly approaching cost-competitiveness with coal. It won't show up on your electricity bill, but as taxpayers, our tax dollars subsidise nuclear (and coal!) for exploration, mining, research, insurance, liability for major disasters (like Fukushima...), security, regulation, decommissioning, and for (eternal) storage of nuclear waste.
      • Apr 6 2011: Well Anna, you certainly can have your own opinion on business issues. It IS however true that in general, economy of scale mean lower cost to produce. I'm sorry you don't understand my message. Cost matters.

        And you don't have it right on electricity production costs either. From low to high (USA numbers) ......Hydro, Natural Gas, Nuclear and Coal are about equal, Wind, Off Shore Wind, Solar Thermal, and finally Solar PV. For the US market, Natural Gas is hugely undervalued right now, utilities making base load Natural Gas are going to have a price shock when the laws of supply and demand come into play.

        I think you have it upside down on the subsidy issue too. Right now, wind is being built only because of huge subsidies. (If I could get 65%-75% of my capital costs covered by the taxpayer, I would build wind towers too). Some subsidy is fine of course. There are indications on solar PV that are encouraging. It may be soon that for new construction it would make little sense to build a house or commercial building without solar PV panels. But. The technology is NOT there yet.

        In fact, I will leave you with this riddle....IF solar and wind were that promising, why did the USA not adopt it from the 1973 energy shock? Carter ranted and raved about becoming less dependent upon foreign energy. Just where are we now??????? (The answer is that the technological issues of cost and reliability have not been worked out.)

        Cost matters.
        • Apr 6 2011: The fossils are going to run out - and on the way there they are going to become more and more expensive. It's pure economics. A limited good with an increasing demand.

          Because of this, some renewable technologies - that do not rely on the use of fossils in their production too much - are going to become more and more competitive.

          But in the mid-term it is only going to be about one abstract thought only: where energy is and how we can harvest it in a way that doesn't cost us more than it brings in. And obviously every day unimaginable amounts of energy from the sun are wasted. Just think about it. Take an astronomy class.

          The time of complete transition is going to come, because it has to.

          My argument is that we have to embrace research and investment in renewable technologies instead of waiting until it is too late and we run out of energy, or others have the technologies.
          There are good reasons to invest in renewables and it doesn't matter that much whether those investments are private or public, because the latter simply is a gigantic economic force that exists. What matters is only that those investments are taking place. Why?

          Imagine the world without fossils. Cities and societies would collapse.
          Imagine a world with efficient technologies to harvest the energy of the sun, opening gigantic opportunities of growth.

          Now in what world do you want to live in?
          And do you want to be the one with the key to this world, or do you prefer to wait and sit around, hoping that eventually someone opens that door for you?

          Sure we don't know if it is possible - but that doesn't mean we'd know that it isn't.
          Cost matters. I agree, but draw different conclusions.

          Anyhow, now that the discussion is over in a few hours, I'd like to say that it was a pleasure talking to you as well as everyone else throughout the course of this discussion. I hope that I was able to inspire some to rethink established beliefs through my postings..

          Let the sun shine with you. ;-)
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    Mar 17 2011: Austria it´s one of the countries that if not 100% of its energy, its produced by rivers lakes and dams (hydraulic), just as an example that its possible to use other types of energy, eolic, solar, wave action, ocean termal, geotermic, etc. i think nuclear its faster and more powerfull yes, but pollutes and its a big danger to ourselfs (whats happening in Japan isn´t enough prove) i think nowadays its stupid to keep poroducing things that after certain amount of time will affect us direclty or indirectly. We just have to put a piece of mind into designing in a better way and really put effort on creating alternatives on energy plants. My very personal opinion. Thanks for reading.
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      Mar 18 2011: thinking similar here with an addition -if we could reduce our consumption and dependence on technology, it would be better. there has been an excellent idea about carrying capacity of an entire eco-system. it includes energy production of course, from all alternative sources but nuclear power. personally thinking if we could stay within the limit of that allocated average expenditure and consumption limits in case of energy that is suppose to be sustainable by alternative sources present at one ecology, it might solve the problem. (this idea is quite close to WTO workings in business sector.) the core concept is- controlling the demand but the supply side.
  • Mar 27 2011: When it comes to solar panels and wind, it always seems to be compared on a mega-scale. Where is the analysis of putting panels on every effective rooftop or small wind driven devices on top of every light pole and connecting it to the same grid the light pole is using? Maybe it won't solve everything, but through efficiency, design evolution and energy efficient building materials I seems like it would be better than some mega-structure. Create it where it's used.
    • Mar 28 2011: Wind is rather ineffective on a small scale, solar would make more sense.
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    Mar 22 2011: In my lifetime the waste from my electric use from Nuclear energy could fit inside a grapefruit. Just make a lead one for me and bury it with me when I die.

    My heart is crusched for the Japanese.

    Placing 5 Nuclear Facilites on a shoreline facing an active volcanic trench... some less than 2000 feet from shore. What were they thinking? They have Typhoons too! and Godzilla!

    Mothera can only do sooooo much!
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    Mar 21 2011: I came across some data on deaths related to various energy sources. The data is measured in deaths/TWh for all energy sources. Here is the original link: He seems to provide good sources and a reasonable explanation of the calculations involved. I realize this is just one variable in a very complex equation on energy needs but to me it's a very important one.

    Here are the results:

    Energy Source - Death Rate (deaths per TWh)
    Coal – world average - 161 (26% of world energy, 50% of electricity)
    Coal – China - 278
    Coal – USA - 15
    Oil - 36 (36% of world energy)
    Natural Gas - 4 (21% of world energy)
    Biofuel/Biomass - 12
    Peat - 12
    Solar (rooftop) - 0.44 (less than 0.1% of world energy)
    Wind - 0.15 (less than 1% of world energy)
    Hydro - 0.10 (europe death rate, 2.2% of world energy)
    Hydro - world including Banqiao) - 1.4 (about 2500 TWh/yr and 171,000 Banqiao dead)
    Nuclear - 0.04 (5.9% of world energy)

    My interpretation of the results is that eliminating all forms of energy above the solar line should be our collective goal. I believe that can only be done with an emphasis on nuclear. Many here disagree. The good news is that all of our choices in this thread appear to be safe in terms of mortality rates. Let the attacks re-commence...

    Thanks everyone for your passionate input on this debate.
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      Mar 21 2011: Bill, I appreciate this angle on the energy discussion. I apologize if my contributions to the discussion appear as attacks. This has not been my intention. I am still not an advocate of nuclear power, however.

      While this is a most interesting data set on energy production, I have questions. What are the deaths attributed to solar, wind, and hydro attributed to? Worker accidents? Widening the scope of assessment, we know that carbon based energy systems and nuclear have the most damaging environmental and human impacts. This assessment includes not only death but also disease, quality of life. We know that we have no idea what to do with spent nuclear materials, and they hazards they poise not only for health, but also for national security. Within this more holistic picture, I cannot advocate for nuclear knowing that safer (within these metrics) options exist.

      I like your assertion "that eliminating all forms of energy above the solar line should be our collective goal." I would support this with the addition of "through the use of existing nuclear power and the development of our renewable energy capacity. Furthermore, with the ultimate goal to decommission and cease the use of nuclear power once renewable energies have been scaled." As it is said, "follow the money." If we put the money into truly renewable energy now instead of nuclear we can achieve a safer, cleaner future sooner. Otherwise we will continue investing in the degradation of our ecological and human health, while producing more nuclear material to potentially be used in weapons.

      What are your thoughts considering these wider impacts on the earth and its inhabitants?
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        Mar 21 2011: The article does explain where the data comes from. It's worth a read. IMO, a death is a death and if that death could be avoided by avoiding that form of energy then it is relevant. No?

        Regarding spent nuclear fuel and its impact on the earth, I can only point you to France as an example. They got it right. It scales and it is safe. Here is an article from the WSJ on this topic:

        From the article: "France, which completely reprocesses its recyclable material, stores all the unused remains -- from 30 years of generating 75% of its electricity from nuclear energy -- beneath the floor of a single room at La Hague."
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          Mar 21 2011: I see that solar deaths are attributed to rooftop accidents, but I don't see what wind and hydro deaths are attributed to. This is a terrible article in terms of readability.
    • Mar 21 2011: How can you count the effects of the small increase in radiation caused by Chernobyl throughout Europe, caused by Fukushima througout Japan?

      How can you assess the danger of one technology under todays conditions, if conditions might change?

      Wouldn't it be naive to believe, just as Japan did, that nothing could happen, because nothing did happen so far?

      Do these statistics include the deaths - and - illnesses of mine-workers, natives and the Children of Chernobyl?
      Because it is not just about deaths. It is not just about what can be counted and what not.
      It is about life - and that doesn't just mean not to be dead.
  • Mar 19 2011: Apparently my last two postings have been deleted or got lost, maybe because I had too many links in them.. So, here again a few important facts about wind power in comparison to nuclear, as an answer to Bill's question regarding the scalability of off-shore wind parks.

    The following posting contains information from the main Wiki-articles on wind power, nuclear energy and off-shore wind energy:

    Off-shore wind power indeed has been tested especially by scandinavian countries.
    A few 200-300MW parks have already been built. while some dozens of parks in the 400MW capacity range, with a few going up to as high as 1000-2000MW, let alone in Germany are currently under construction or in approval process. (according to

    While wind energy in general accounts for ~2% of world electricity, it doubled during the last 3 years. (according to Wikipedia, which might not be 100% up do date)

    In comparison, nuclear power declined a few percent in the past years, while intriguingly no new plants at all were built in 2007. (see "use" paragraph of nuclear power wiki-article)

    Those trajectories make quite clear which technology holds the future. Not to talk of other possible renewables.
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    Mar 18 2011: I appreciate your forthright declaration of belief. I do not agree with you. If we are going to talk about energy production with no conversation about the unspoken mantras that drive forward our tremendous consumption of it, then let's be clear about that to start off.

    If we aren't going to talk about efficiency and conservation, either, than let's be clear about that too.

    Here is an example of an alternative to fossil and nuclear fuel that has real promise to meet the modern world's needs without the modern world dieting its energy consumption. Deep Off-Shore Wind. There is almost 4 times as much energy available 50 nautical miles off the United States shores as the country uses. I highlight the United States, because this article does and because we are the current model for modern development.
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      Mar 18 2011: I'm glad someone with clout has posted such an interesting link - we should employ common sense too -
      on a basic approach 'tsunami' or 'hurricane' or 'earthquake' or 'global warming' really means 'water'. Looking at the feats of engineering achieved already in Japan, China & in the world as a whole - it would seem that however we respond or risk-manage, water is the key.

      I will read your link with enthusiasm as every time I see a disaster emerge, the 'common sense' voice in my head says wouldn't it be great if we GENERATED power during the most fragile time instead of it 'crippling' the infrastructure & relative energy grid?

      I am sure the Japanese would take an incredible hydro-project over reactor 7+ being built at Fukushima right now.
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      Mar 18 2011: Adam, my working assumption when I initiated the debate was that few people would (at least publicly) agree with me. The public has not disappointed! ;)

      You, correctly in my opinion, insinuate that we have a resource-abuse problem. I couldn't agree more. I don't know how to solve that problem. Maybe when our generation dies off our kids and their kids will be smarter about conserving resources then we were.

      For better or worse I've seen nothing of any realistic nature in the many great postings here to convince me that any other technology can scale to meet our needs on a global basis, to replace fossil fuels, the way nuclear can.

      I read the article you sent on off-shore wind. If one country would deploy it at scale it would sway my thinking. Your probably saw Gate's TED talk from last year on building better, cheaper and even more productive nuclear reactors (that he is investing in). In case you missed it:
      • Mar 19 2011: Bill, you keep saying that nuclear could scale - which I obviously do not believe as can be read in my part 2 / 5 posting (which refers to current - available and non-breeder - reactor technology only) - but aside possible projects in development like the thorium reactor, the small reactors B.G. funds, fusion, liquid fuel reactors, etc., what evidence or logical conclusion can you give?

        I'm not against development and research in nuclear, though I'm very skeptical about pressure to actually apply those technologies which might arise as an economical imperative from high investments, as it is claimed by the BBC documentation mentioned earlier to have been the case in the ninteen-sixties.

        But as far as I know, there is a long record of highly promising, yet unsuccessful research projects which stretches through the past decades. Thus, I have come to the conclusion that it is common for such projects to be portrayed as the future of energy, without ultimately being able to deliver on that promise so far.

        Because of this, I believe enthusiasm for such ideas does not help a rational weighing of options. ;-)
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        Mar 19 2011: Bill,

        Regarding your comment: "For better or worse I've seen nothing of any realistic nature in the many great postings here to convince me that any other technology can scale to meet our needs on a global basis, to replace fossil fuels, the way nuclear can."

        How does the evidence that there is enough wind energy 50 miles off the coast of the United States to produce 4x the energy currently used in the entire US, not provide evidence that the opportunity exists to scale wind turbine technology to meet the world's energy needs?

        If scaling of alternative energy is largely funded by government streams, and government funding is largely determined by political will (and hopefully some common sense and logic), then don't we the people need to make sure we are helping to set the course for our energy future?

        Regarding your comment: "You, correctly in my opinion, insinuate that we have a resource-abuse problem. I couldn't agree more. I don't know how to solve that problem."

        We need to make this correction in our own lives and choices, and demand policies that will also realign us to fundamental ecological truths we exist within. Do these solutions not seem reasonable to you?
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          Mar 19 2011: Good question.

          Just because the energy is there does not mean it can be easily tapped and brought to people at scale. As I said, if one government were to run a real world test and show that it works at scale, I'd probably become a supporter. I'm skeptical, but always open to a better way.
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          Mar 23 2011: The wwf have recently published a report (feb, 2011) outlining how all the worlds energy needs could be provided cleanly, sustainably and economically by 2050.

          It basically argues what most people have already stated: "Before pouring billions into creating a new generation of nuclear or gas power stations, we need to ask whether that money would be better invested in other, more sustainable energy technologies"
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          Mar 23 2011: Andrew, this is really interesting. I'm going to read this with a little skepticism given the source (WWF) but I am genuinely excited to see what they have to say!

          Thanks for posting this!
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    Tao P

    • +1
    Mar 17 2011: The case against nuclear is that it is not economically viable. It's far more expensive than anything else and it prevents those dollars from being spent on renewables. Renewables such as wind and solar have incredible potential considering the amount of energy that falls on the earth every day from the Sun. At the moment they may not be quite as cheap as coal or oil (unless you factor in the cost of the war for oil, or the costs of cleaning up pollution and healthcare costs from those living near coal plants). But much as all other technologies, they will rapidly improve with enough demand. Look how far cell phones have come in the last decade due to demand. Imagine when every home has solar panels on their roofs, how effective they will become.

    Also, energy efficiency in our cars, homes and businesses is the most cost effective way to go. Watch Amory Lovins talk 'how to win the oil end game' and see how close we came to eliminating our dependence on foreign oil in the 70's.
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      Mar 17 2011: Tao, you make a couple of excellent points. I have struggled with these issues in forming my own opinions. I remember reading "The Reckoning" as well back in the mid-80's which was a wake up call for me in a similar fashion.

      However, I simply don't see how countries like the US, China, India, Russia, etc can deploy wind, solar and hydro-electric at a large enough scale to replace fossil fuels. Nuclear, vis-a-vis, the French example seems to be the only viable option that scales.
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        Mar 18 2011: Well, I can see you are an apologist for the nuclear industry. Why don't you discuss how the "reprocessing" of waste works in France and it's impact. I simple don't see how your "nuclear or bust" attitude is helpful to our need to develop alternatives to fossil fuels.
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          Mar 18 2011: I am not an apologist for anyone or anything. You don't know me, so please don't presume that you do. My intent here is to foster a civl debate among people that care about our future as it relates to our energy needs. If you have an opinion about our energy needs, please share it, I'm sure we'd all love to hear it. Thanks.
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        Mar 18 2011: What about the bio-fuels and the newer meta-materials referenced in your listed talks (Juan Enriquez) as well as future design RE computational power & nano-technology? (For the populist approach - Ray Kurzweil, Stephen Wolfram and many others for the computational power & proof) These designs are already happening & the transformation of simple cells into photo-voltaic energy within the right time-scale is being MASSIVELY overlooked by many people in the energy debate.

        It is obviously going to be a hectic (nuclear included) system, with compensatory base-load sourcing globally for many years - but what I and I think many others distress at is that whilst we have harnessed the powers of the sun in terms of hydro-carbons (burning wood, plant energy and only relatively recently coal & oil - the heart of the problem now) we then 'jumped' a rung on the energy ladder by attempting to copy the sun. With the finance (including 50 years of failed fusion too) I feel humanity has been forced to reach too far by not balancing the investment in autonomous solar power as the evolution oil companies, wars and therefore often sciences most misaligned progress as well as events like Tunguska sped up the capital research into nuclear (hence the age of the reactors, financing and enormous times-cales involved in building & safety aspects that would NEVER be allowed in other industry) This funding should now be focusing on this gap we jumped into developing within a decade - %100 safe, renewable & economically viable solar unit energy first. It is a moral obligation & opportunity to re-discover, re-fund & inspire 12 year olds now into being involved in these break-through labs, not risking their lives in 25 years aboard a 2010 constructed floating radioactive powerstation, as Japanese engineers currently are.
        I appreciate you allowing a series of very well informed responses on here & I wish the Japanese people all the best will in the world in rebuilding & restoring their world.
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    Mar 17 2011: If the purpose of energy production is to serve mankind, then its best that we have the people, who are going to use it, alive.

    If the source of energy or the process by which it becomes usable harms human life directly (for instance nuclear radiation
    ) or indirectly (fossil fuels harm the environment we live in) then its pointless to put so much effort into it.

    Yes, I agree that we had no alternate in the past. But now we do, renewable energy has more potential, is cleaner and is getting efficient by the day. Its just "expensive" .. I don't think notes of cotton and linen with numbers written on them is enough reason to not shift to a better future.

    But thats just my humble opinion. :)
  • Mar 17 2011: I think Bill is right, nuclear power is the only answer at the moment for base load power, its OK saying we can use wind, solar or tidal, but its something thats going to happen 5 or 10 years down the track, we need to start building nuclear now and shutting down coal and gas and then we can start looking at renewable s.
    • Mar 17 2011: So you say that renewables are going to be big in 5-10 years? And until then nuclear power plants should be built?
      You are aware that one nuclear power plant takes usually 7-15 years to build?

      You are also mentioning base load, but are you aware that by putting various renewable energy sources into a large grid, you can counterbalance the peaks and lows of those single sources and sites, so that you'll achieve a higher base load than you would with unconnected sites alone?

      You are also aware of the fact that a nuclear power plant is a long term commitment? Once you decide to pursue this way, you decide not to pursue other energy technologies. But hey, I don't have a problem with you making such wise decisions. If you don't embrace renewables, others will. ;-)

      By the way, could you go into detail on this base load power claim? I would really like to know the numbers...
  • Mar 14 2011: Nuclear byproducts are deadly. Some of them (like plutonium-239) can kill, fast. Burying nuclear waste for 1000's of years is not viable, especially as seeing nuclear fuel would only last a few centuries at most. When it ran out, we'd be faced with another energy crisis, but with highly toxic waste as a byproduct.

    If current reactors carry on at the current rate, uranium will last for about 200 years. If we all switched to nuclear power now, with current reactors, we'd run out *fast*. Yes, better reactors are being built, but they're still fragile. The recent earthquakes and tsunamis in Japan have illustrated just how fragile nuclear reactors are. If a solar cell went wrong, nothing much would happen. If a nuclear plant went wrong, it could explode. And when a nuclear plant explodes, that's bad. Look at Chernobyl.

    In fact, a film has been made about this very recently. See for the trailer.
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    Mar 13 2011: Supporting renewable sources and talking about how we could conceivably only use them to solve the energy crises definitely makes us feel nice, just like supporting the organic movement does. These concepts are intrinsically correct, but it is clear that due largely to lack of public enthusiasm they are not sufficient. I think we need to be more realistic about what will work in the near future to rid us of our dependance on fossil fuels, nuclear energy will work.
    • Mar 13 2011: Why do you think that it will work? It didn't so far. It just doesn't have the scale, and there are reasons for that - not just environmental. Give an argument please. Or better take a look at mine a few postings (especially Part 2 / 5) below and tell me what you think about it. :-)

      Please don't tell me that TED is just another Internet-Forum...

      PS: Now the third nuclear power plant in Japan experiences problems.. ..just mentioning. ;-)
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      Tao P

      • +2
      Mar 17 2011: Renewable energy is here. It is closing the gap on cost per watt more and more when compared to coal. I believe it long ago became more cost effective that nuclear per watt. To think that it is more 'practical' to spend 7-15 years building new nuclear plants instead of investing in renewable energy is backwards indeed. With the money going to renewables we will see them become cheaper and more effective. They are already a good investment as they pay themselves off in many areas in 8-10 years (a 10-12% return on your investment).

      To be practical we must combine this with energy conservation and energy efficiency
  • Mar 11 2011: Part 5 / 5

    Climate, P.R. and philosophy:

    Emissions - CO² neutral?
    1. Mines = broken up soil by earthmovers using fossil fuels
    2. Centrifugation = uses electricity generated by nuclear (e.g. France) or fossils (e.g. Russia)
    3. Transportation = no electric car = fossils
    4. Power Plant = lots of concrete, materials and stuff ;-)
    5. Infrastructure & waste storage = even more facilities
    = not so CO² neutral = ~28-160g/kWh (average ~60g/kWh)
    In order: coal - nuclear - renewables
    Climate scientist Helga-Kromp-Kolb stated a few years ago that 70 new reactors per year were needed to achieve a significant impact on climate change by being able to switch off coal fired power plants. Currently only a hand full go online annually - the industry could not scale, even if it wanted to for named reasons.

    Public Relations - bad public information after most nuclear disasters (e.g. radiation leaks, distribution through wind & weather); some marketers talk about CO² neutrality which is obviously frivolous; anti-nuclear movements obstructing spread of nuclear infrastructure (e.g. Germany's castor transports, Austrian's Zwentendorf power plant, Canadian/Australian/... opposition against Uranium mining); public let to believe that nuclear is vital, due to overproportional coverage in media (almost nobody who is not familiar with the stats would guess anywhere near 6% of global primary energy supply)

    Philosophically - long term reasonableness is questionable

    1. Sun = big, Earth = small.
    BIG = much energy = :-), small = less energy = :-(
    2. Sun = no inhabitants as far as we know of, waste storage on site included. Containment through space; Earth = inhabitated by life, waste storage not automatical, containment requires ageing technological solutions
    3. Sun = already running and spitting out energy reliably for ~4.500.000.000 Years. Fusion on Earth = not so much.

    After all, we run on the sun already. (94%) Just our mindsets don't.

    Thanks for reading.
  • Mar 7 2011: I saw something the other day -- I forget where it was -- that claimed that not one single nuclear power plant has ever been built anywhere in the world without public subsidy. This may or may not be true, but nuclear power plants certainly do seem to go horrendously over budget with alarming frequency. Also, they are not that ecologically friendly if one considers their huge appetite for cooling water; they make irreversible changes downstream. And finally there is the ever-present question of what to do with the spent fuel.

    Having said that, I am sure that nuclear power will be inevitable because it is better (less bad?) than the alternatives: wind, solar, etc. As fossil fuels become more and more impractical to extract and refine, I see a day when ever more expensive oil will be used for mobile applications, it being still the most practical way of storing and moving latent energy, and nuclear power will provide the static power we will need for our factories and homes. I also suspect it will manifest itself in many ways quite different from what we generally regard as nuclear power today
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    Mar 7 2011: While I don't disagree, I wish your question was more elaborate. Nuclear energy's idea is where we are headed. A compact area of energy containment for a larger area. Though we have pushed level of efficiency , which include being clean to a higher degree. I believe our future lies within magnetic and potential energy to create true efficiency of an advanced level. Nuclear energy, which must remind people, is nothing more then a super steam engine. It is not anything much more advanced then coal. Another words we have not harnessed the energy of the nuclear matter we have simply directed its heat to do nothing more then power an engine as our 18th centuries ancestors have done. We are looking for more advanced technology.
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    Mar 7 2011: You may be interested in this debate as well:

    The consensus in this debate was pretty clear - yes, since it's more friendly to the environment than coal and since we don't have a real alternative that is better at the moment.
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      Mar 7 2011: Thanks for sharing Sabin, I hadn't seen that. That's fantastic.
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      Mar 8 2011: I absolutely loved that debate, Sabin. Thanks for posting it for me to see again. It changed my mind from tipping toward nuclear to against nuclear.
      It was so enlightening and satisfying to see two experts with wisdom and good will go head to head on a major issue facing our world without any rancor or personal attacks. Just the facts.
      I really hope that TED will organize debates on a variety of issues that have two strong points of view for the benefit of us all.
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    Mar 7 2011: You probably feel like you are in a minority, because you live in Los Gatos! ;-)

    Our consumer-based media runs on FUD, fear, uncertainty and doubt.

    Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, The China Syndrome and Homer Simpson have poisoned rational thinking in the collective consciousness. The Energy business's Achilles heel is reactionary PR. Sure, there are bad things that can happen if resources are not managed well, but the benefits are so abundant that everyone takes them for granted.

    We don't have a technology and innovation problem with energy, there are lots of reasonable solutions. Nuclear is viable, but so are fossil fuels, especially clean-burning LNG. North America has more natural gas than Saudi Arabia!

    The problems are perceptual, and as long as there are FUD-meisters like Al Gore and Michael Moore, warping that perception, *without thoughtful counterpoint* we are in for a literal world-of-hurt.

    If Energy companies were as good as Phillip Morris in selling their benefits, we would all be winners.

    It's a positioning problem, more than anything else. The major benefit of Energy companies isn't power, it's quality of life, and as long as people think that their quality of life is going to be worse from an industry that is actually making it better, there is going to be a major problem.

    Energy isn't the only quality of life industry that's under attack. Bio-engineered food designed to feed billions of more people is a target now too...

    I say build the nuclear plants as fast as we can, but let's get people to love them for the modern wonder that they actually are, instead of fearing them like some evil villain in a bad movie...

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      Mar 14 2011: wow What a statement! "If energy companies were as good as Philip Morris in selling their benefits, we would all be winners".
      To site a cigarette company as an icon of effective marketing in this context is seriously scary. Tobacco manufacturers have been masters in manipulating the general public into actually sucking in poison and shortening their lives.
      I just thank GOD that we are not in a position to have any more illogical and pathogenic sources of energy foist upon us by astute marketers.
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    Apr 6 2011: We have to think towars the future, and start to improving a new way of generate energy without put in risk the people lives and all the world.
    Today, the facts show us, that this is not a solution and we continue investing money in future problems.
    We have to pay attentions of this advices and change a lot of things. It´s the time to do it!
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    Mar 29 2011: Here is an artificial leaf that placed in a gallon of water and left in the sun can produce enough energy for a home in the developing world. This seems very promising.
  • Mar 29 2011: Can anyone help me on understand this point a little bit: Amory Lovin's lecture on "winning the oil endgame was given in February 2005 (link below). And he spoke very convincingly that we could do it without nuclear, through conservation, new technologies and renewables. But that wasn't really brought up here. I'm coming to the details of this broader discussion late. Can anyone tell me why it's not being debated here (or much of anywhere). I'd also appreciate some good reading and website recommendations regarding energy issues.
    • Mar 29 2011: Hi Mark,

      here are a few things you can look up on the internet:

      - The yearly UN International Energy Agency statistics PDF file - google for: IEA Key World Energy Statistics 2010
      - For additional information regarding the current status of nuclear and renewables, take a look at the Wikipedia articles regarding nuclear energy, wind energy and offshore wind energy.

      You can find additional comments, summaries and interpretations of the numbers behind these links in some of my earlier postings.

    • Apr 6 2011: Mark. Conservation is wonderful. It reduces peak demand and lowers end user energy bills.

      Business truth. You cannot conserve your way into growth. (It is not a long term solution).

      Population increases, electrical toys increase, and we are becoming more environmentally concerned so we are shutting down some of the older coal plants. That puts pressure on the business model.
      Have a happy.
  • Mar 28 2011: A short update on Fukushima:
    Almost expectably I might want to say, the first traces of plutonium have now been found outside the plant:
    (which indicates that reactor 3 may be leaky)

    PU has a half-life of 24.000 years but luckily is a very heavy element too, which makes it a bit harder to be distributed by air as far as I understand it.

    In a totally related subject the results of some regional German polls happening earlier this week are in, showing a doubling to tripling in support for the German Green Party, making Winfried Kretschmann the first green governor in Germany. :-)

    Graphics of the poll-results:,1518,753235,00.html
  • Mar 26 2011: Making spent fuel rods that will be dangerous longer than modern man has been on the planet is Not the way to go. Until every home/building has solar panels on them we shouldn't even talk about the need for nuclear power or more coal plants.
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    Mar 26 2011: Interesting bit of reading for consideration. The article compares Germany's energy production from solar to that of the Fukushima nuclear complex. It finds that the solar produces more energy in a year.
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    Mar 24 2011: I believe we don´t have the right to make the world a dangerous damp site for future generations. That is what nuclear energy does. The energy problem is a difficult one, one that needs to be solve and tackled from many angles. One of them is the reduction of energy consumption. Our societies squander energy. We need to see energy in a different entire light. Another one has to do with what Ken Robinson says about revolutionazing education. We must allow all the potential of children to come out. They´ll surely come up with new and better solutions.
    To cut the story short, I´m totally against nuclear enegy.
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    Mar 24 2011: (QUOTE)I believe that we need to invest in and deploy nuclear energy. We have a much better chance of innovating and surviving our way through a nuclear energy era than we do through the current fossil fuel era extended for a couple of hundred more years. What do you believe?(END QUOTE)

    A rethink needed there Bill.

    Just look at the Ice core records there HAS ALWAYS been a catastrophic disaster after NATURAL Co2 reaches around 400ppm. In the last 12 catastrophic disasters,there has been a correlation of;


    A spiral arm encounter,= THIS TIME,YES.

    A Galactic Equator encounter,= THIS TIME,YES.

    A magnetic reversal,= THIS TIME ““IS IMMINANT”“,SO YES.

    A deep ice age after,= TIME FRAME EVIDENCE AGREES,!! SO YES.

    An extinction event, = TIME FRAME EVIDENCE AGREES,!! SO YES.

    An encounter with a Photon Band =THIS TIME YES.

    A Harmonic convergence = THIS TIME YES.

    At the EXACT same position in space where there has two major extinction events, Cambrian and Permian Now join to that fact, this interglacial warm period is due to end circa 2012 and we just happen to be crossing the thin magnetic disc of the Galactic Plane circa 2012,plus a ““magnetic reversal imminent”” circa 2012 says National Geographic.

    The Oceans warming IS the source of the carbon dioxide rise.
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    Mar 24 2011: ALL NUCLEAR REACTORS AND WEAPONS NEED TO BE DISMANTLED WELL BEFORE DEC. 2012 BECAUSE OF THE COMING GALACTIC WAVES WHEN WE CROSS THE GALACTIC EQUATOR,These galactic waves will bring liquefaction parts of the Earth's surface,Earthquakes,mountain building and vastly increased Vulcanism.

    How does one person get life-threatening information that you know to be profoundly true,across to the rest of the world in a hurry?,I don't know,but I am trying to anyway.

    Dec 2012 will be the end of the World as we now know it. It’s just Is history repeating it’s self…. AGAIN?

    We ARE in the SAME location as the end-Permian extinction…. AGAIN.

    We ARE in the SAME spiral arm as the end-Permian extinction….. AGAIN

    We are crossing the SAME thin magnetic disc of the Galactic Plane equator .....AGAIN

    We ARE experiencing the SAME increase in Volcanic activity as the end-Permian extinction…. AGAIN

    We ARE experiencing the SAME increase in Co2 as the end-Permian extinction ....AGAIN

    We ARE experiencing the SAME increase in OCEAN temperature just before the end-Permian extinction ...AGAIN



    Long term Seismic activity trend Monthly number of volcanic earthquakes at Nyamuragira, 1960-92

    JUST AS IT HAS BEEN THE REASON FORTHE RISE BEFORE EVERY>> ““DEEP ICE AGE”“ OUR 5% to 10% range is less than the variation range of natural sorces. SEA SURFACE TEMPERATURES.

    Global freshwater not showing an upward trend,PROVES it is not greenhouse related.
    • Mar 25 2011: The master race created us to work the goldmines? Crop circles are messages from space? Extra-terrestrials looked like Nefertiti? Man, you gave some interesting links there!

      Given that the probability of all nuclear weapons and power stations being dismantled in the next 21 months is somewhere between zero and nothing, what do you suggest we should do?
  • Mar 24 2011: Bill, don't worry you are not alone - I too am a supporter of atomic power - I won't call in nuclear that is a made up word. I think we need to have a real grown up debate about the whole issue of energy - how we get it (not just generation, how reliable it is, what are the risks, etc. etc.
    The real issues are:- The human race is not getting smaller in terms of population, our whole economic model is based on increased consumption.
    Therefore we need increasing amounts of energy, oil & gas will not last forever and they, along with coal, at the moment are our biggest providers of energy. While climate change and it's link to CO2 is a still really not a fact but a theory, do not believe we can keep on polluting the atmosphere with CO2 and have no impact.
    Other forms of energy wind, solar and bio have inate problems. Wind - only available approx. 30% of the time, solar - only when its daylight and bio - why grow food when you can grow energy.
    Therefore there is a requirement to provide energy for a globally increasing poplulation without producing CO2 and making it reliably without wasting valuable crop space.
    Atomic power is the answer, I appreciate there are risks but the risks of continuing to burn fossil fuels mean the risks of atomic power are worth taking. Couple this with the recyclability of the fuel and the use of waste to power breeder reactors and I think the case is a compelling one.
    I realise some of my thoughts may be controversial, but lets debate.
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    Mar 23 2011: I agree with you BUT we are doing the "Homer Simpson" all the time. We handle Nuclear material and waste in such an irresponsible fashion, it is appalling.
    Even the Japanese, who have shown a great deal of discipline lately, after the earthquake are unable to perform and guarantee proper maintenance of their nuclear plants.
    Therefore, unless we change the subject matter into control for proper management, the human species will not earn our right to harness this energy.
    Very similar situation we have with the monetary/economic subject, the wrong hands=the worst outcome attained.
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    Mar 22 2011: A friend recently posted me this amazing bbc documentary by investigative journalist Adam Curtis, filmed in 1992 on nuclear power called 'A is for 'Atom'. It's the equally fascinating and troubling history of the industry with interviews by enlarge, from all the the original managers, engineers and scientists that invented the Atomic Age, for many their last before passing away.
    This makes this film a container of vital evidence of the inherent problems with nuclear power and renders any 'pro' arguments from the modern industry & 'experts' as 'mark II opinions', many deeply embedded with pro-numbers dogma without any objectivity, loaded, lobbied and often plain wrong about the facts.

    The film also contains the actual dictaphone message accidentally recorded at Three Mile Island as well as various ominous General Electric Nuclear adverts from the time too.
    It more than details the fundamental reactor design issues that when considered, makes ALL nuclear reactors by design default, inherently unsafe. The repercussions of which Japan is currently encountering and suffering with - directly.
    I believe anyone who watches will have to concede the core safety issue (when taken just from the standpoint of submarine-safe limit of 60mw to say, 600mw alone) renders any talk of the 'safety' of new mark IV reactors totally obsolete.

    Well worth watching - whatever your standpoint I believe that safety cannot assured on any level, watch directly here from the horses mouths. This would also explain the hasty global enquiries happening into the Nuclear industry from individual nations right now.
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    Mar 21 2011: am sorry the numbers are not exact of course but i've watched in a movie that the geothermal energy is abundant more than many other types of energy source its about we can collect from the fields of the geothermal energy about 2000 zeta joule and the world consumption is 0.5 zeta joule per a year which indicates that the geothermal energy is sufficient for another 4000 thousand year if the rate of energy consumption stayed in the range.
    another point i would like to discuses that there are tow types of nuclear power nuclear fission and nuclear fusion i read once that the great deference is that the nuclear fusion wastes takes less period to be decay ( decompose ) i think the fusion takes about 30 to 40 year but fission may stay for mare than 100 year
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      Mar 21 2011: My understanding is that Google is doing a lot of investment in geothermal for this reason.
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      Mar 21 2011: Abdul,

      ".. nuclear fusion wastes takes less .. etc "
      is not that simple. End result of fusion is helium, which is nor radioactive. However, in the process of fusion
      other materials (walls of the chamber etc) may be irradiated and become radioactive. How much, we do not know as yet, as process is still in the early research stage.
      The case of fission is even more complex. Current reactors produce lot of 'waste', which may be active for 1000 years IF left to its natural process.
      However, next generation of fission reactors
      produces much less, of short lasting waste, AND - it can burn the existing 'waste'.
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    Mar 19 2011: Nuclear energy is an excellent energy source however, we should combined it with different fuels as well. I support the use of biofuels however, it seems right now it isn't economically feasible. Cellulosic bio fuels gives me hope. But really in the end, it all boils down to the economy, that is the main limitation in allowing biofuels to be widely used. I am not a fan of biofuels from corn or any other food crop. These food crops (such as corn) have been artificially selected over years for the purpose to eat not to produce biofuels. Our feedstock for biofuels should not be the same crops that feed us due to bringing a variety of issues regarding resource partitioning (how much of this crop goes to feeding vs. fuel source). To have an effective biofuel we need to design a crop that is specified for this use (ex. developing a crop like switch grass which possess weaker cell walls which could reduce bio-fuel pre-treatment costs.
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    Mar 19 2011: Nuclear energy is a solution, but not the final solution.
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    Mar 18 2011: A friend just posted me this amazing bbc documentary by investigative journalist Adam Curtis on nuclear power called
    'A is for 'Atom'. Its the equally fascinating and troubling history of the industry with interviews by enlarge with all the original scientists - as well as the actual dictaphone message accidentally recorded at Three Mile Island as well as the ominous General Electric Nuclear adverts from the time too.

    Well worth watching.
  • Mar 18 2011: For many yrs. I have self studied marine bio. & related aspects of it-just a hobby of mine & I am SURE NOT an expert on this BUT: There are very strong, swift, deep currents in the worlds oceans that might be tapped for energy (?). Has anyone thought about these? If it would be feasible to do so without harming the waters & wildlife?
    Just a thought & suggestion folks.
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    Mar 17 2011: there is struggle between using nuclear energy , Non-Fossil Fuel and oil . i think Non-Fossil Fuel is not the best current option we have , we may be able to use it on future but now its not an option . the second lethal option that is driving the world to global warming is oil , but we must find another fuel source to find a future to our children in next decades .
    i think the most suitable energy is nuclear energy since very small mass can generate huge amount of energy with low cost and it can be spread around the world under global supervision .
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    Mar 17 2011: Maven Research has been contacting radiation and energy experts to get their perspective on what is happening in Japan. They were kind enough to post some of their early findings via these experts... (Note: they don't actually say who the experts are so I guess we have to take it on faith that they really are experts. I sent them a note asking for a full disclosure, I'll report back on what they send me.)
  • Mar 17 2011: There's an interesting documentary out there -> "A is for atom" by the BBC.

    It goes into detail on the design flaws of reactors such as the ones at Fukushima and the decision-making that led to those.
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    Mar 15 2011: Here is a good and rational explanation of what is happening with Japan's nuclear reactors with useful commentary in the cooments section:
  • Mar 15 2011: Dear Bill Barhydt,

    you stated: "I believe that we need nuclear energy and we need a lot of it." and "I believe we have a much better chance of innovating and surviving our way through a nuclear energy era".

    Now that Fukushima 1's reactor number 2 just blew up, measurements of 8217 micro Sievert at the plant's gates do the rounds and the wind appears to be heading south towards Tokyo, which means that the situation is beginning to get really serious (if those claims hold true) - have you changed some of your beliefs yet?

    And if this does not turn out to be true, why don't change your beliefs anyway? Afterall, it could as well be true - we can't really tell right now - which is somewhat all the worse.

    PS: What disturbs me a bit is that General Electric - a sponsor of TED Conversations - also supplied reactors 1+2 of Fukushima I. - see table on Wikipedia -
    But that doesn't necessarily mean that they are responsible for any failure that occurred at one of these plants during the past few days. After all, it just wasn't the right place to built such a design, but who could have known or even thought about that - and who, who could have, should have?

    (if talking about sponsors is against rules, please just delete this posting)
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      Mar 15 2011: My heart goes out to the families who lost loved ones due to the tsunami. But we need to be rational about what's happening and the debate on energy. Nuclear is by far safer than carbon/fossil/chemical or renewables.

      Here are the facts as I understand them :
      • Mar 15 2011: Thank you for your reply.
        I think that the assumption of nuclear - or any other energy source - being just about physics is wrong. It really is also about human beliefs, thinking, risk management and decision making in society, politics and businesses, which are highly affected by external forces.

        I've read through the article on this site, and here is what I would criticize:

        1. pro nuclear source = doesn't give you meaningful counter-arguments by definition
        2. not up to date (last update three days ago) = now that the situation has worsened, it somewhat isn't worth covering anymore. (well, maybe they are going to throw out another article - but at least right now it appears that way - also, I didn't read the comment section so far)
        3. misleading complex physical information = might have been true in regards to the situation three days ago, when only one instead of 4 reactors had been affected. But even that is not understandable or verifiable by non physics. (including me)
        4. false information (all 6 reactors built by GE) = indication for bad source
        5. obviously superficial, throwing around just a few buzzwords in regards to the safety question instead of making a logical argument.

        Whenever something like that happens, there are people coming out who want to play it down - usually because such a disaster runs against their own beliefs.

        Why am I talking about beliefs? Because when it comes to complex real life situations, such as power plant risk management or disaster management, we seldom can use laboratory physics or experiments as a mind model to handle the problem, as they are just too complex and too little information is known.
      • Mar 15 2011: How is nuclear fuel safer than renewables?

        When was the last time you saw toxic byproducts of wind or solar power?
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          Mar 15 2011: I have no money in this race one way or the other. I believe if we don't start applying rational, common sense to our energy problems we are in big trouble.

          how many people died in japan because of dams that were breached? (many from my understanding) how many people died from the shut down reactors in japan? (none from my understanding.) the loss of a single life is horrible to me, but the reality is that non-nuclear forms of energy are simply more dangerous to man.

          when was the last time you saw toxic byproducts from nuclear (you asked)? honestly I can't remember (probably chernobyl.) if you're getting your nuclear education from the mainstream media then you're simply doing yourself a disservice.
      • Mar 15 2011: I'm replying to your comment here, because I can't down there.

        Japan isn't finished yet. The reactors aren't cooled. There could be an explosion any minute. And what about this? And I'm not getting nuclear education from the mainstream media: just news on Japan.

        If you can't remember the last time you saw toxic byproducts from nuclear power plants, then you obviously haven't looked at any nuclear power plants! Nuclear power plants produce various forms of highly toxic waste (e.g. uranium-239) that stays radioactive for thousands of years. Yes, breeder reactors are better, but the waste is still toxic.

        And as for your arguments about hydro-electric dams splitting and killing people, there's plenty of reservoirs that do that anyway. But there aren't any dangerous byproducts of hydro-electric dams in normal circumstances, except for maybe disrupting wildlife. And perhaps large-scale hydro-electric isn't the way to go.

        Again, watch this trailer, and then buy the movie:
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          Mar 15 2011: Edward, I promise I will watch the trailer and then (probably) rent the movie. I never dreamed when I started this thread that I would get such impassioned responses. Most have been great, even the ones I don't agree with. A couple (below) have been personal attacks which I guess I can take but wasn't expecting.

          I still don't agree with your logic but I'm excited to take part in the debate and hope that we all get a little closer to the best possible solution because of it. I'll try and remember to let you know when I watch the movie!
        • Mar 15 2011: In reply to Bills second last posting.

          I haven't heard of those dam breaches yet, but I believe that we both can agree on that there are general risk management questions regarding many different kinds of energy technologies, whether it be nuclear, hydro or fossil.

          And I think that in order to assess risks reliably, creativity is highly needed. It does not take much creativity to imagine that one day an exceptionally strong earthquake might occur, does it? Even despite what experts believe. Or that a 7m tsunami could hit the coast line? Or that the plant's operator might actually try to bypass the regulations in one way or another. - Maybe because they don't fear that this could happen, maybe because they believe that they can't afford the safety measures, probably because it does take - for a fact - a lot of money to make such an old plant what is regarded as safe by todays standards.

          So how can we handle such problems in advance? The problem is not nuclear or our understanding of physics, it's the lack of understanding of our selves.

          So Bill, even if we are not going to agree on every aspect, I would like to ask you to take a look at the data of the IEA, which you can find here ( ), if you haven't done so already. One of the things you can read out of those stats is the minor importance of nuclear on a global scale. Looking at them myself, I believe I can also understand your situation better, because it is to some extent true that we need to embrace everything we can get just to survive the demise of fossil fuels as our main energy source. I can't say what is going to be the answer right now, but I believe that nuclear poses some inherent risks that we can and might just as well overlook as oversee. So the best answer would be to search and find something entirely different, wouldn't it?
  • Mar 14 2011: Oh I see. You were advised about the production of Ferrovanadium. Yes, most of the vanadium in use today comes as a byproduct of the iron industry. Ferrovanadium is produced directly by reducing a mixture of vanadium oxide, iron oxides and iron in an electric furnace. What we will be producing in Nevada is vanadium-electrolyte which would be almost immediately ready for use in VRB batteries.

    You should keep in mind that the use of Vanadium in steels enables steel makers to reduces weight by 30% and double strength. Which means lower shipping costs and less steel used for any given application and less energy spent in the smelting process of Iron.

    Vanadium is green in steel, batteries and the chemical industries.

    All metal production uses energy from fossil fuels the trick is understanding which ones make it better and which ones make it worse.
  • Mar 14 2011: Vivienne, not sure which fossil based fuels you are referring to in the vanadium redox battery. Vanadium is currently limited in supply but we are working on changing that with the first primary vanadium mine in America due to come on line in 2012. Check out the specs and other facts about the VRB and then let me know your thoughts.
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      Mar 14 2011: Hello American Vanadium

      My comments were based on information given to me during a trip through Asia where on behalf of an Australian 'Green' group who were/are seeking to stand up to a Hydro Electricity-govt initiative to put a Diesel backup generator in a fire-rainforest remote heritage park zone - were looking for off grid backup through solar and possibly Vanadium. I contacted Maria Skyllas-Kazacos of University of New South Wales who at the time was having funding issues with progressing her research and supply projects. As I had to go to South East Asia for genocide research I stopped to ask of vanadium suppliers and was told that on of the primary method of extraction was through the burning of crude oils. This was second hand and might have been simply been a miscommunication - as I have not looked into this since then. I would be delighted to hear otherwise and that there is environmentally clean, safe and abundant principles around vanadium and the components. My interest in seeing this as a back up system to grid down time and areas where solar farm communities might be able to use this solution - knowing it is rather large for output required etc.

      I'll read your info and drop you an email. Thanks. Why we need to spend billions on 'nuclear power' and mitigating the risks to human lives and environment when we have such plentiful supply of that great big hydrogen bomb in the sky - I am not sure. Economic advantage is sure to be negated when countries, MNC insurance and governance budgets along with communities have to deal with the aftermath of disaster recovery through Japan like episodes. Happening so frequently that international aid will become a new issue also. But humans are lazy - they need it given easily as a complete cheap solution - and most want to follow like sheep. If they are reassured its ok and it becomes an 'official' platform - not too many question it with any degree of change impetus.
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    Mar 14 2011: Is this our energy supply for the next 250 years?

    Clean, safe, cheap and abundant. (i.e. not uranium based nuclear.)

    The single most transformative thing President Obama could do for the US is spend 1/2 our defense budget on deploying these reactors everywhere (consider it a national defense initiative.)
    • Mar 14 2011: Safe? Nuclear waste is NOT safe. Plutonium-239 is *highly* toxic: breathing in a small amount of dust can kill, fast.
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      Mar 14 2011: I do not agree that is the single most transformative thing Barack could do for the US. The most transformative thing he could was pick up where Reagan left off. Its the most transformative positive act for the whole of global society - it is the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty that he and Hilary Clinton negotiated and agreed on 5th February last month.

      Of course there are moves and have been for some years to recycle the radio active plutonium into nuclear reactive fuel - and how that has progressed I am not sure - but this thread from 'friends of the earth' gives more info on the leaked report.

      Something needs to be done with any nuclear weapons and I wholeheartedly congratulate and thank Obama Clinton and Sergei Lavrov, Russia for establishing and ratifying this treaty. This demonstrates mature thinking that is strategic and not purely for short term gains - that appears to be the major issue of governance.

      As for 'clean' safe and abundant - claims about nuclear power. I wish to ask - will you make that statement in a court of law as being qualified and having enough knowledge to say this? And when the damages claims come in will you then accept the responsibility of your assertiveness? I am not questioning your expertise or intelligence. I am simply pointing out - that humans tend to jump to solutions when they lack the facts - that is why we have a nuclear arms 'problem'. That is why we have nuclear waste dropped into deep channels of the ocean where recently active volcanoes have been discovered.

      Yes, we have progressed nuclear power since the days that Britain 'forgot' to evacuate the Aboriginal people of Australia while they tested their 'bombs'. Since Hiroshima. Since Chernobyl. BUT pick up the papers and read what is going on in Japan. Yes it is safer. But is it SAFE? Experts say 'NO'.
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      Mar 14 2011: And in asking - are you qualified to make the statement of 'clean, safe cheap and abundant' - are you prepared to live with your family within a mile radius of a Nuclear Power Reactor to prove this? (And I mean live, not spend a PR week). You are of course aware that radiation has leaked and children are among the affected.

      Lets all hand out iodine sweeties to our children and go nuke. It reminds me of people telling you to jump up and down and you won't get pregnant.
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    Mar 13 2011: The most viable alternative today (which is when we require this) remains the sun. Yet solar energy although plentiful is discounted for one simple factor - storage.

    We have had some solutions proposed - the Vanadium battery is one. Yet although providing superior storage capacity and efficiency to compensate those times and places without sun, this still uses fossil based fuels also.

    What else is out there and what are we putting our money and minds to that can help store energy and store the sun's energy - which is the most accessible, plentiful and renewable energy source we could possibly harness?

    So efficient - that Nature has been using it for several billion years.
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    Mar 13 2011: Despite contemporary development we still face the same issues of disposal as we do with 'clean' nuclear power. That is simply - risk. Risk to people and environment.

    Often the debate roars between those in favour and not through 'disposal'. This is where the clean brigade can at least come in and argue that some progress has been made with the traditional methods of 'DISPOSAL' of waste.

    There are three methods:
    1. Deep Ocean Disposal
    2. Deep Geological Burial
    3. Nuclear Waste Recycling (hence the 'clean' movement)

    The first two options are just no longer acceptable with what we now know. Recycling is said to be too expensive for many countries - yet is the only real feasible solution to progress forward if pro nuclear at all.

    With 1. and 2. being the most common method of disposal - who decides the risk to populations and planet?

    DO they take into account the geology of location? Are they REALLY taking into account global climate change and that we know natural disasters WILL INCREASE on our planet? Japan suggests not.

    Which leads me to wonder about first world so called 'safe' countries like USA who house mass stockpiles of nuclear weapons. What happens to those countries in the earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions? They have more nuclear risk to all

    Its not just waste - and you do not need to be a nuclear physicist to gauge that the half life of nuclear waste is going to last a few million years longer than the 'safe' containers it has been 'disposed of' in the ocean and underground.

    What about all those big bombs? In his bid for power and security - Man has created weapons of mass destruction that can ensure any survivors of cataclysmic natural disasters won't have much to survive for.

    What are we doing? Our wars are to be against ourselves - we're fighting survival from our own deeds. What is priority for security: weapons or saving and protecting lives? If we can afford bombs we can afford to develop safe alternate energy.
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    Mar 13 2011: Hi Bill,
    While we certainly do need a lot of energy, I am not in favour of more nuclear engery. I was teetering toward accepting it as a necessity until I watched that awesome TED debate on the topic. At that point i teetered back.
    After the BP oil spill and now with the current crisis in Japan, I feel that if we cannot handle the worst case scenarios we should not be expecting the surrounding people to pay with their lives or liveihoods for the benefit of a power hungry population.
  • Mar 13 2011: I believe that if all the subsidies spent on promoting and keeping the "low cost" of nuclear power were instead invested in renewable energy technologies and energy efficiency, the odds of humanity surviving without nuclear energy would look very different.
    Imagine investing the billions that go into nuclear in more efficient wind, geothermal, biogas, other biomass, 3rd generation biofuels, small and even micro hydro, or even tidal or wave energy.
    Imagine investing them in more efficient cars, factories and homes that use less energy for the same service they provide now... (somehow energy efficiency is always out of the picture when we talk nuclear...)
    The subsidies do not come from large corporations, they come from our own taxpayers' pockets.
    What do you choose to invest in?
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    Mar 13 2011: Here is an update from CNN on what is going on with the nuclear reactors in Japan.
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      Mar 13 2011: Again - while we have nuclear experts reassuring the damage has now been contained (other than the possible meltdown of one reactor still in alert at the plant) and the other plants - the crux of the matter is damage has occurred.

      Radiation has already escaped into the environment. We all know what that means in terms of people - instead of 'numbers'. The types of suffering, mutations etc. that can occur for generations. We know people just exposed to radiation blasts can develop illness and die five years later. We witnessed this from those who fought in wars unprotected and not knowing they were exposed - until their hair started falling out in clumps, their teeth rotted and their agony began in a slow tortuous demise.

      We have witnessed damage for generations from just one small leak. Is there a cure for this yet? Are we not just creating more problems and death while trying to fix others and make life more comfortable for a short term - when long term will be dire consequence? Governments must start working together strategically for the people that pay them to administer and go back to essence of founding constitution - where people have more value than money. No human system for societal living can survive with any other key driver. Money and nuclear power left to a generation of mutant green plebs who survive the almost extinction of the planet is not going to be very useful. This is not really about money. It is about priorities.

      How sustainable are our priorities? We all want the economic comforts of life - but is it any good to us under extreme climate hardships? How will our governments pay and support aid relief with constant disasters? We really can't afford to be the single minded capitalist boomers of the ignorant 70s. We have to be social sustainable capitalists - if economic at all. Because if we don't think of others and global survival - we all suffer. We must ask our governments to make sustainable not fiscal priorities.
      • Mar 13 2011: I agree we need to work on our priorities however the reality is that we will not be able to run our societies without nuclear energy for foreseeable future (some countries like France and Beligum generate more than 50% of their electricity from nuclear reactors).

        We need to move quicker into adopting the latest technology of Thorium reactors. They are much cheaper, much safes and much less radioactive:

        Unfortunately US is behind on Thorium where China and India are making large investments in Thorium reactor research and development.
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    Mar 12 2011: nuclear energy does produce a lot more energy than Non-Fossil Fuel based energy sources. i would say that nuclear energy is the "Steroid" of our energy issue, it can solve the problem but with tremendous side effects such as military issues, waste managements and safety precautions. Non-Fossil Fuel based energy sources would be like the "aspirin" it takes up space, time and money to make with little effect(compared to nuclear). Non-Fossil Fuel based energy sources is still a developing technology which hopefully can replace nuclear one day. for now i think we should grasp a balance in between the two
    • Mar 12 2011: Hi Martin,

      take a look at the IEA Key Energy Statistics. You'll find the .pdf here:
      At page 6 you'll find that globally, for primary energy supply nuclear only accounts for 6%, Hydro+Combustible Renewables+ Waste ~12%. Ok, this is partly because in many countries people use wood for heating and cooking and I agree with you that some renewables such as PV are still minor, but if we want to change that, we can either wait for it to change by itself or make it happen faster ourselves - by embracing renewable technologies.

      Further, on what grounds do you believe, that it "can solve the problem"?

      Nuclear to a large extent only poses new problems. Disasters "that can not be foreseen" (or people don't want to think they can happen) and that once they happen are downplayed. The reason for that is because people tend to believe what they want to believe, and to believe that there is an imminent danger within our essential technologies is not something one likes to hear.

      Due to the current events, let me quote from a Tokyo professor "Naoto Sekimura":
      "Even in the worst-case scenario, that would mean some radioactive leakage and equipment damage, but not an explosion. If venting is done carefully, there will be little leakage. Certainly not beyond the 3 km radius."

      This is the same with believing that nuclear can solve the energy crisis or climate change. I don't think it can, as you can read in my Part 3 / 5 respectively 5 / 5.
  • Mar 11 2011: Part 4 / 5

    Bad design - the renewables' argument:

    Base load considerations (a common argument against renewables) - can't be solved in one day, but intelligent grid with diverse renewable attached located on planned site is able to achieve far higher base load, than only one sinle site of renewables by it self. Combination of many technologies with intelligent planning = solution to the problem.

    Huge inflexibility - demands large energy infrastructure, thus (amongst other reasons) so far not applicable in many countries, centralized system > failing = lights out (see Japan earthquake), very large contracts = danger of bribes, long planning time + approval process + build time + complications = 7-14 Years or more, huge initial investments per plant, but low fuel costs = long term planning of large investments = high risks = decreased attractivity for investment

    Brakes development - nuclear = long term (decades) commitment to huge inflexible energy infrastructure, every cent could be spent on renewables instead; radioactive materials have to be watched > basically no grass roots innovations or small, decentralized research companies, instead mostly ineffective institutional research (this point is just a conclusion / guess derived from the danger of radioactive materials, not a fact)

    Locational restrictions - risky countries = proliferation of dangerous tec; cooling needs fresh water nearby, heated cooling-water changes local ecology; anti-nuclear movements restrict nuclear in many countries; natural catastrophy-zones poser further limitations, if they are minded...

    Inefficient in many ways (=no perfect design) - 2/3 of heat goes out the chimney, a lot of soil has to be redeployed to get to Uranium, fissionable material has to be enriched and transported, use of small part of enery of radiation only.
  • Mar 11 2011: Part 3 / 5 Numbers and time - the real problem:

    Size - how large is it?
    (based on 2008 Data from "IEA key energy statistics 2010.pdf" - Google for it!)

    1. Nuclear = fission = 5,8% of world primary energy supply - including electricity, heating, transport, industrial processes, etc. (see page 6)
    2. worldwide contribution to electricity: 13,5% (p. 24)
    3. worldwide ~440 reactors (usually multiple reactors per plant) = 370GW installed capacity, majority of which goes off the grid until 2030 due to reactor-age

    Location - Where is it big?
    Proportion of nuclear in electricity of different countries: France (77%), Ukraine (47%), Sweden (43%), Korea (34%), Japan (24%), Germany (24%), U.S. (19%), Russia (16%), Canada (14%), China (yet 2%)

    Upscaling issues - How large can it become?
    1. ~3/4 of reactors have been built before 1990 = 3/4 are over 20 years old, lifespan is 30-40 years = have to be replaced int the next 2 decades = "nuclear renaissance"
    2. Typical reactors need Uranium, a relatively spare ressource, it's future bit unclear (serious estimates until depletion as far as I know: 2-6 decades at current consumption rate); often proposed "solution" to this bootleneck = breeder technology = "Plutonium economy" = much more highly dangerous material (Plutonium) around = unbelievable high risks
    3. overaged industry-personal, because boom happened in 70s/80s (for 1. & 3. see IEA pdf mentioned above, p.16 timeline graph)
    4. Despite plans still very, very few new reactors per year

    Relative size and importance - What about the market?
    Total global electricity generation estimated to double in the next 2-3 decades (yearly growth rate 2-3%) = 8-12 GW pear year in newly installed capacity needed for nuclear to maintain it's market share. (1 modern reactor = about 1GW; 1 power plant = multiple reactors) currentyl half of that is achieved in a good year. While some new plants are at least planned, 2/3 or more of old power plants have to get offline within 20 Years.
  • Mar 11 2011: Part 2 / 5

    Risks and byproducts - the traditional argument:

    Let me begin with an equation:
    Little knowledge = many risks + misjudgement

    Risks - terrorist attacks (e.g. dirty bombs), melt-downs, accidents, gas explosions, proliferation of materials or weapons, abuse by states, spread of technological knowledge (e.g. in Pakistan, North Korea, Iran), power plants = easy war-targets, contamination = long term (many fungi thoughout Europe still not fit to eat ^^), shadow economy, hard to keep track of dangerous materials in bad "climate" (USSR breackdown), log term (1000+ years) safety of waste-stocks not assured, costs for waste treatment might bear on society for the long run if no solution found, insurace of plants limited, built near borders for reasons

    Atomic weapons - technology somewhat spreads with knowledge, future economic catastrophies increase danger of wars in any country, "newcomers" operate outside international regulations, above surface tests had been a problem

    Radioactive dust - depleted uranium (=very hard, waste material) used by U.S. and allies (and others?) in their weapon systems, making ammo more penetrating and shields harder, apparently releases radioactive particles on impact, distribution probably through air & wind, possible correlation to increase in infant mortality, cancer etc. amongst locals and soldiers.. see also docu "Deadly Dust"

    Mines - some chemicals polute ground water, radioactive materials on suface have to be protected against distribution by wind, which sometimes fails, typical miner-diseases (cancer) wide spread, native rights often "undermined"

    Radioactive waste - a big problem, because of at least 5 reasons: 1. long half life period (Pu239: 24.000 YEARS, U235: 4,5 BILLION YEARS), 2. currently no real means to get rid of, 3. in case of hot breeders: Plutonium, 4. poor countries don't have appropriate arrangements. 5. richer countries tend(ed) to questionable disposal
  • Mar 11 2011: Part 1 / 5

    NUCLEAR PROSPECTS - Introduction:

    While I'm not a professional, I've spent a few weeks assessing the pros and cons of fission und fusion, realising that those topics are vast, both terms actually representative for a wide range of technologies, ideas, projects, politics, firms, concepts, reactor-types and sometimes disasters.

    Initially I attended a conference of the "Nuclear Free Future Award", a declared "anti-nuclear" group which holds a yearly award-ceremony and does a lot to help natives affected by uranium-mining, documenters, etc. to connect and get their message across. Now you might argue, this is not the best place to look for a neutral argument on nuclear - but it certainly is a good place to get familiar with some arguments against it and to get to know the people who make them. Nevertheless I discovered that the real arguments against nuclear are not as clear as it seems, even amongst a well educated crowd.

    I later also attended a conference about the prospects of fusion in Vienna, where the IAEA is stationed. Besides that, I read a bit, discussed and tried to make sense out of official statistics.

    In this five part series, my goal is to lay down the global situation of nuclear, covering a wide range of aspects connected to nuclear, stretching into the fourth dimension (= development over time). So this is not going to be a U.S. or a E.U. perspective. The major question that concerned me throughout my "investigations" as well as in making this argument here is "How important is nuclear really?" - and I hope that at the end of the read you'll have a clearer answer do this question. By laying down the arguments against nuclear, I do not evaluate any possibly upcoming technologies. I also do not believe that nuclear is going to vanish from the diverse pool of energy sources any time soon - unless renewables kick it's ass economically. ;-)

    Due to the complexity of this topic, I've decided to write mostly in cues.
  • Mar 8 2011: Another fact that shows the goodness of nuclear energy, is that it's the one that have less impact on environment. Compare it with hydroeletric, to built one you have to change rivers courses, you have to "dissapear" with the wildlife, you have to flood population areas and the costs to manage all of that are so high. The bottom line is if the nuclear energy works correct it's the better way to provide eletric energy.
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      Mar 9 2011: I attended a presentation the other day about hydropower, and asked the lecturer why a large scale hydro damn is considered more sustainable than nuclear power. He predictably pointed out the nuclear waste issue but also identified that we only have a very limited supply of uranium. Could anyone shed any light on this?
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    Mar 7 2011: This is an interesting choice of an example:

    "If Energy companies were as good as Phillip Morris in selling their benefits, we would all be winners.."

    A question about those benefits being good for us, may be raised.
    Is that intentional?

    If USA has so many resources, why does BP drill in deep seas ans gas prices go up when there is civil war in Lybia? Somehow I am not convinces. Should I read more cigarette commercials?